Oh no! Is that my child!?
Imagine this. You’re in a parent child class at The Little Gym and in your eyes ALL of the other kids are sitting in a circle, complying to the instructors direction, and having a grand ole time. But your eyes are rolling in the back of your head because YOUR child is wandering away, throwing mini temper tantrums, and definitely not complying with the instructor! If you’ve ever participated in a parent/child class you’ve probably all been there…..
A little bit of background first.
My wife and I opened our first location 3 years ago last January. Page had an extensive background in child development and gymnastics, which ultimately lead us to open The Little Gym in Liberty Township. There are many great programs out there, but we were attracted to The Little Gym because of its spirited approach to teaching. The Little Gym philosophy targets the physical, social, cognitive, emotional, and perceptual aspects of childhood development. What makes The Little Gym unique is the approach we take as instructors. We believe in creating an environment that fosters the creative freedom of children, and one that allows them to learn at their own pace. We celebrate victories no matter how big or how small. We always have goals for children, but the goals are always different. Some might be targeted towards motor skills, and some might be targeted towards social goals. Regardless, we want the child to grow with our program.
I feel compelled to write my experience as a parent with a child enrolled in The Little Gym, but from the owners perspective.
You see, for the last two years we have been preaching everything TLG is, and how we attain our objectives, and why its so important to be involved in a program that allows kids to grow and develop, but in a fun way. We built our gym to 500 children a week based on our knowledge from previous positions, franchise training, and a steep learning curve that forces you to learn quick. It wasn’t until 18 months ago that we added a parental perspective to our knowledge with the birth of our first child, Logan.
My particular perspective is geared towards the parent/child age; because as parents that’s the only age group we have had our own child enrolled in.
We have been attending classes now for a few months, somewhat consistently, but defiantly not as consistent as we should be. There are times we are done with class and I think, “Oh my gosh. This is so embarrassing. My child darts towards the bars the second the opening circle starts. By the time I finally wrangle him back to the circle, its time for warm up, which he wants NO part of. All the other kids are staying with the group. Things go numb after the first few tantrums, and then its time to go home!” The funny thing is, I have had numerous parents experience this, and ask what to do. Half of the time they want to stick their head in a hole, and the other half want to stop coming to class. Can the owner of the gym really think like this? After seeing hundreds of kids succeed after routine sets in and they grow with the program, can I really contemplate not attending class? Well, it crossed my mind!
So I ask Miss Chase, my sister in law what to do. Now this is a hard conversation to predict because we trained her based on what we know, The Little Gym way. Her first point was, “are you kidding me, no ones even paying attention.” After teaching hundreds of classes, and watching a fair amount of children melt down, I now know this to be mostly true. As a teacher in class, there is so much going on, and so much to execute, that one child wandering around is really the true nature of a child. Weather they are wandering, not wanting to do it your way, or just simply refusing to participate, it encapsulates the true being of a child. If all children complied with everything, followed directions, and listened to everything you said, we would call them adults. And we all know there are adults out there that don’t comply with directions!
So, what’s my point? My point is that parents are mostly focused on their own child in class. They don’t have time to watch every movement of the other children. Second, as parents we can relate to just about any behavior we see in class, and hopefully laugh about it. We have all been there before and it’s not as bad as you think it is in the moment. Third, we must remind ourselves why we are here. Do we expect children to learn potty train in one day, do we expect children to learn multiplication in a week, and do we expect children to throw a baseball perfectly the first time we put a ball in their hands? NO!!!!
Coming full circle I must give myself the advice we have been giving to parents for the last few years. For the wandering child: they are still learning. Just because they aren’t with the group doesn’t mean they aren’t learning. They are observing, discovering a new world, and becoming independent in their own dependant way. As parents we must stay with the group as much as possible, keep a safe eye on our children, and continue to invite them back to the group time. Eventually they will learn its more fun to stay with the group, and that they get some built in exploration time later in class.
Two: routine and consistency. How can I expect routine and structure to set in if we don’t come to class every week! I own the gym and I am guilty of this! If I want to allow my child to grow, I must commit every week, and make up the classes I miss.
Three: exposure. We must let our children explore and develop. And we must let them be the leaders at times. However, we must expose them to things that might make them leery at first. I will say that Logan would scream bloody murder the first 5 times he saw the air track blow up. But after five times he stopped crying! Did he love it? No. But he defiantly didn’t mind it as much, and I bet he will love it eventually. This is why we must expose our children to the beam, the bars, and the rolls that might make them a little nervous. Why do we do this? Because we are good parents. My father is a child physiologist and has been for 35 years. He once said, “ Children need to face small problems growing up in order to be well adjusted and successful in the early years. If a kid gets skipped in line, doesn’t get the ball they want or trips and scrapes their knee, it is exposing them to numerous small problems they will face eventually. By experiencing these small setbacks, the kids can learn to adapt and eventually face broader, and more serious hurdles in their later years.”
Wrapping up I am greatful for this experience. My child is benefiting from class, and your children are benefiting because we can continue to grow as a gym with a new perspective. As the weeks go by we will be sure to update you on our experiences in class. I know it will pay off.
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